Linda Hutchinson-Jafar, Business Writer
The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica has issued licences to two international companies to explore eight of 20 blocks off the Pedro Banks. Another licensing round is planned for January 31. - File
A Canadian explorer is taking bets that Jamaica, a high energy consumer, will hit strong commercial deposits of oil in the Pedro Banks and Walton Basin.
Gerold Fong, president and chief executive officer of Canadian Voyager Energy, an independent oil and gas company, said Jamaica's offshore areas may hold the most significant potential for the discovery of new hydrocarbon reserves in the region.
"Although there currently is no production in Jamaica, a gas seep on the north coast and oil shows in wells offshore and onshore suggest the potential of a hydrocarbon system which is yet to be proven," said Fong, who has 24 years international experience in diverse basins across the world.
"The offshore Pedro Banks and Walton Basin may hold the most significant potential for the discovery of new hydrocarbon reserves in the region," he added.
Jamaica, which is centrally located relative to the energy-hungry markets of the United States and is across the waters from the Gulf of Mexico, is in the process of surveying for crude deposits under new exploration licences issued by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) last year to Finder Exploration of Australia, which has since partnered with Gippsland to explore five blocks, and Rainville of Canada which is searching out deposits in three.
PCJ has been hunting commercial deposits of crude for about 50 years, but is yet to turn up viable quantities that warrant drilling wells.
Another roadshow is planned for oil-rich Houston, Texas on January 31 to generate interest in exploring the remaining 12 of 20 blocks up for licensing.
Before Finder, the last seismic data generated for Jamaica were done 23 yeas ago by Petro-Canada International Assistance Corporation.
"If one considers all the progress in seismic technology over the last two decades, both in the acquisition and processing of offshore seismic data, I would say Jamaica is ready for a whole new offshore exploration phase in the coming years," said Fong.
"In 1983, the seismic vessel acquiring the data would have deployed a seismic cable the length of 3.0 kilometres compared with vessels today, using recording cables three times that length with larger air gun arrays which deliver far more energy into the ground than those 20 years ago," he noted.
"A geoscientist interpreting this data 23 years ago would likely have done so using paper sections rather than the sophisticated workstations which are used today. I know all of this," said Fong, "because I was one of those young geophysicists who interpreted this data 23 years ago while working with Petro-Canada."
In addition to all this new technology, he said, there has also been a significant evolution in the knowledge of geologic models especially in the case of deepwater deposits.
Since the early 1980s, billions of barrels of new reserves have been discovered in so-called turbidities, low stand fan type deposits, in West Africa and other parts of the world.
In the case of Barbados, also yet to find deposits of oil or gas, Fong said it is encouraging to hear that an international call for bids is planned for early 2007.
"The Caribbean is entering into a new and exciting period which will see increased exploration activity in Jamaica, Barbados and the rest of the region," said Fong.
"New ideas will emerge as explorationists once again cast their minds into the complexity of the geology with the aid of new technologies which are available today."
Speaking in Port of Spain on why Canadian independents were attracted to the Caribbean, Fong said companies are looking for large reserves that can be explored for at reasonable cost.
Challenges facing small independent Canadian companies, which were investing large capital but finding smaller pools at home, is pushing them to look externally for exploration opportunities.